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Tanzania rejects calls for election commission reform

A voter casts his vote at a polling station in Dar es Salaam during civic elections in Tanzania last November/AFP

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6 – Tanzania’s government on Thursday rejected opposition calls for a reform of the election commission, ahead of general elections later this year.

The main opposition party Chadema say the commission is not independent and serves the interests of the ruling CCM party of President John Magufuli.

The US embassy has made similar calls for an independent election commission.

But Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa dismissed the concerns.

“The commission was set up in accordance with the constitution which enshrines its independence,” Majaliwa said in a statement Thursday.

“The commission is independent and does not suffer from any interference in its functioning — neither from the president, nor from any political party.”

On Monday, Freeman Mbowe, chair of Chadema, said the commission was not independent — because the president can appoint and revoke its leadership – and accused the government of ruling the country “by force”.

The commission is especially important because, under Tanzania’s constitution, once the commission has declared the results of the presidential election, they cannot then be challenged in court.

Magufuli came to power in 2015 as a corruption-fighting “man of the people” but has since been criticised for his authoritarian leadership.

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Nicknamed “The Bulldozer”, his administration has shut down newspapers, switched off live broadcasts of parliament and used far-reaching cybercrime laws to jail critics.

He is due to run for a second term in polls due in October.


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